How Photos are Judged


On Judging A question most often received is “What do judges look for” and the most honest answer I can give is “it depends on the judge” — which of course doesn’t answer the question. So the best I can do is tell you what I look for when I’m asked to judge a club level competition. Assuming the club works on a 15 point basis , I have worked out the following system for myself. Of course I am not going to break down the points for each category for every image, but roughly this is the weight I will give(mentally) to the various factors.

4 points for interest.

Generally in a club it’s a pictorial competition (rather than contemporary, nature, travel, journalism,etc.) so the image must have appeal for that type. A picture of a flower must grab attention ratherthan be encyclopedic. A photo taken on a trip must stand alone as an exciting subject rather than as “a nice place which we visited”. Sometimes, a part of the subject will be more ‘interesting’ than the whole and that is what should be presented. No matter how technically perfect or well executed, if the image does not hold the viewers attention, it must be marked down. Bear in mind that a projected image or print suitable for a special interest competition may not be appropriate as a pictorial subject.

5 points for composition and image quality.

This is where we separate the dedicated amateur (and professional) photographer from the snapshooter. Composition here means not just placing the subject in the proper position within the frame, but also proper use of view, angle, lighting, perspective and cropping. The snapshooter will face the subject head-on, aim the point-and-shoot in the general direction, and click. The pictorial competition photographer is expected to think like an artist and present an interesting subject skillfully.

4 points for technical quality.

Technical quality is scored more severely today than in previous years because of the growing sophistication of modern cameras. There is really little excuse today for an image to be out of focus or badly exposed. The advent of digital photography has given even inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras the ability to put out superb photos. Unlike in the past, there is also no excuse for competition prints to be off true color or the wrong contrast. There is a fantastic assortment of computer programs available today to make the entire post camera process easier and more assured, and then of course many competition prints today are commercially prepared. A print must also be appropriately and properly mounted for presentation. Any judge will mark down seriously for a sloppy presentation.

2 points for impact.

When everything comes together and that picture on the screen or in the print box just grabs you, or touches your emotions, points are given for impact. The ideal picture will make you jealous and say to yourself – “I wish I had taken that”